Patient Stories

Inspiring Hope and Healing

Plastic and reconstructive surgery changes lives and improves the way you look and feel, inside and out. Our patients and their stories inspire us, and we think they’ll encourage you too. We hope you take comfort and strength in hearing about their experiences at MedStar Health.

 

A Limb Lost for a Life Returned

In July 2019, 17-year-old Sophia Bailor suffered a catastrophic wound to her left leg from a circular saw. The injury left the otherwise healthy Rockville, MD, teenager fighting for her leg and her life.

“I had a lot of problems with [physical] shock,” recalls Sophia. “I also had a very severe traumatic injury that basically severed most of my lower leg.”

Sophia was stabilized and underwent surgery on her leg at a local trauma center and spent over a week at the facility recovering.

She endured months of excruciating nerve pain and immobility in her leg, leaving her unable to attend school and increasingly depressed and frustrated. Together with her parents, Sophia decided that the best way to regain any quality of life would be to remove her injured leg.

“We had gone to many surgical consults at that point,” says Sophia. “At every single one of them, we heard: If you want to go down the road of amputation, you have to go to MedStar Georgetown because they’re doing it the best way it can be done.”

Sophia was referred to Grant Kleiber, MD, a plastic surgeon with the MedStar Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Program specifically because of his work in targeted muscle reinnervation (TMR) surgery. TMR redirects the sensory nerves of a missing limb to muscle nerves in the residual limb. The goal is for the newly attached nerves to eventually integrate themselves into the muscle of the residual limb and prevent the severe pain that often occurs following traditional amputation.

“The thought with TMR is that by giving nerves a new purpose — somewhere to go and something to do — you’re helping short-circuit that patient’s phantom pain,” says Dr.Kleiber.

“I’ve been performing amputations for thirty years and with the advent of TMR, it has changed the whole ballgame in terms of pain and function,” says Christopher Attinger, MD, director of the Center for Wound Healing and professor for the MedStar Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Department, who worked with Dr. Kleiber on Sophia’s case.

For Sophia, Drs. Attinger and Kleiber performed a combined procedure of TMR with a below-knee amputation using the Ertl technique. Ertl focuses on rebalancing the distal bones and muscles of a limb to function like they did before amputation. The goal is to provide a pain-free, stable limb that has increased function and weight-bearing ability. It is a common approach for athletic patients, like Sophia.

Sophia also received a peripheral nerve block, which is anesthesia injected in or near a specific area of the body. For Sophia, this technique blocked pain for five days and aided in recovery by producing fewer side effects than general anesthesia.

“I felt like Dr.Kleiber and Dr.Attinger were talking directly to me and really valued the outcome I wanted from the surgery,” says Sophia. “Amputation is a big decision. They didn’t pressure me at all and spoke to me about different types of limb salvage. They showed that they genuinely cared about my success.”

“Our philosophy here is that amputation shouldn’t be thought of as a failure,” says Dr.Kleiber. “For a lot of patients, amputation is not just the simplest way forward, but the best way forward.”

“Dr.Kleiber told me, ‘you’re gonna rock life as an amputee’,” recalls Sophia.

And that’s just what she’s doing.

Sophia underwent surgery in March and within two months was healthy, thriving and back into activities she loves, including mountain biking.

“I came to MedStar Georgetown with a sense of hopelessness,” says Sophia. “But I feel like I found the right people and that has given me my life back.”

 

Susan Wolfe-Tank’s Story

“There are other options, don’t stop living your life and find out what is available. I’m just grateful this was an option available to me.”

Meet Susan Wolfe-Tank whose life was changed for the better after Dr. Song performed her lymph node transfer for treatment of lymphedema after breast reconstruction.

 

Cathy Kalimon’s Story

“I’m a breast cancer survivor, and I received my excellent care at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.”

Cathy underwent breast surgery with the ComfortSafe Pyramid®, which is an alternative approach to anesthesia that can relieve pain without narcotics and their side effects.

 

Wendy Walston’s Story

“I had no pain with the surgery.”

Wendy had a double mastectomy with nipple-sparing reconstruction after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Prepectoral breast reconstruction is a less-invasive reconstruction procedure with less pain and quicker recovery than a typical implant procedure.

 

What’s Your Story?

We want to hear from you! Your story can give others the courage to transform their lives, too. Please contact us to share your story and tell us about your experiences at MedStar Health.